Monday, November 17, 2008
Via Bloomberg (and Neal Axton)
More senior citizens are picking pockets and shoplifting in Japan to cope with cuts in government welfare spending and rising health-care costs in a fast-ageing society. Criminal offences by people 65 or older doubled to 48,605 in the five years to 2008, the most since police began compiling national statistics in 1978, a Ministry of Justice report said. Theft is the most common crime of senior citizens, many of whom face declining health, low incomes and a sense of isolation, the report said. Elderly crime may increase in parallel with poverty rates as Japan enters another recession and the budget deficit makes it harder for the government to provide a safety net for people on the fringes of society.
``The elderly are turning to shoplifting as an increasing number of them lack assets and children to depend on,'' Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor at Chuo University in Tokyo and an author of books on income disparity in Japan, said in an interview yesterday. ``We won't see the decline of elderly crimes as long as the income gap continues to rise.'' Crime rates among the elderly are rising as the overall rate for Japan has fallen for five consecutive years after peaking in 2002. Over 60s accounted for 18.9 percent of all crimes last year compared with 3.1 percent in 1978, with shoplifting accounting for 80 percent of the total, the report said. The trend has captivated Japan's media, which include regular accounts of the latest thief or pickpocket as well as undercover footage of people shoplifting food in convenience stores and supermarkets.